Where's the (Grass-fed) Beef?

For several months our family has been researching a place to buy a grass-fed cow. Seems like a weird quest, you think. Actually, it was all part of the penny-pinchin', healthy-living journey we are on. We have drastically reduced the amount of meat - particularly beef - our family eats. It was one of our baby steps (or New Year's resolutions) from a few years ago. Don't get me wrong; I love my beef. I was raised an Italian-Filipino carnivore and although I love a lot of vegetarian fare I can't say bye-bye to all meat.

After reading a particularly poignant book, WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HEALTHY LIVING by Dr. Rex Russell, we were convinced not to eat pork. (That's a story for another day.) We also just watched Michael Pollan's recent movie, Food, Inc., which made a good case for why cows should not be eating corn in the first place. Their bodies were not designed to digest corn. Sure, we can kill them off and make them into fat steaks before they die themselves because of major digestive issues but is that really the kind of food you want to put on your table? Our family is working to basically eat organic beef, chicken, turkey and vegetarian meals about twice a week.

There are loads of health benefits to eating grass-fed beef over the corn-fed meat featured in most restaurants and on grocery shelves. Grass-fed meat is leaner, which means less "bad fat" but more omega-3s, which are vital to brain development and help with immunity to sickness.

What's a steak-loving gal or guy to do when corn-fed, fat cows dominate the market? Buy your own cow. We actually decided to buy half a cow. (According to my friend Gail the other half is running around on her street.) We bought our grass-fed happy half a cow from a guy named Chuck (No joke!) who goes to our church, The Bridge. Chuck likes to raise grass-fed cattle for a hobby and he gave us a screaming deal. We're talking $2/pound for everything. Compare that to Costco or Trader Joe's where I normally would buy ground beef for $6/pound and much more for the finer cuts. Chuck's price included tri-trip, ground beef, beef ribs, steaks, soup bones - you name it.

We didn't even know a lot of the different cuts of beef so Chuck sent us to this great web site called Ask The Butcher. Chuck isn't certified "organic" but my hubby asked him lots of questions about the pastures where his cows graze and the way he cares for them. We were satisfied with his careful practices. You might not have a "Chuck" in your circle of friends but you might investigate another option for grass-fed beef in your area. For example, Fresno is home to Organic Pastures, which sells raw dairy products as well as grass-fed, organic beef. We split our meat with several families and that enabled us all to share in the benefits.

The bottom line is: we are saving on doctor bills in the future by feeding our family quality beef today. Plus, we're saving a bunch of moolah in process.

Now that we have all this great beef in our freezer we are on a quest to find some tasty recipes. Any suggestions? What's your fave way to prepare steaks, roast, burgers?


Recipe of the Week: Breakfast Enchiladas

My hubby loves big breakfasts and I love weekend brunches. I recently served up these Breakfast Enchiladas at a Girls' Getaway at the Coast. We enjoyed the leftovers later for dinner.

You might consider using other fresh veggies from your spring garden or the farmer's market. We like to slip some spinach or other greens in with the filling or even chop some fresh asparagus to throw in with the eggs. Leave a comment and let us know what you try.

Spring often brings birthday brunches, baby and wedding showers, and even Easter or Mother's Day celebrations. Next time you're hosting try out these breakfast enchiladas to give your brunch a fun and festive flair!

Dorina's Breakfast Enchiladas


-1 dozen organic corn or flour tortillas

-1 bottle Trader Joe's Enchilada Sauce (or other favorite brand)
-1 15-oz. can organic tomato sauce
-1/2 cup organic sour cream (or plain yogurt)

-olive oil
-8 eggs, cooked/scrambled
-2 cups pinto beans, cooked (use 1 can or 1 cup dried, soaked and cooked until soft on the stovetop)
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
-1 small can black olives, sliced
-3 green onion stalks, chopped
-1 avocado, sliced
-1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together ingredients for sauce in a small pan. Heat through.
3. Meanwhile, mix eggs with cumin and salt. Scramble in frying pan in olive oil. When eggs are cooked, add canned or precooked beans and mix together with eggs.
4. Spray bottom of 13x9x2 dish with olive oil. Lay out tortillas. Add a few tablespoons of cooked egg mixture to the center of each tortilla and roll. Place face down in the pan so the opening is at the bottom. Repeat with all tortillas until dish is full. (You may need more than one dish, depending on how full you like your enchiladas or how many tortillas you want to use.)
5. Pour sauce over the top of the enchiladas and top with shredded cheese.
6. Sprinkle olives and green onions on top of cheese.
7. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes until cheese is melted and tortillas are warm.
8. Garnish with sliced avocado and serve with sour cream on the side.


Farmer and the Dale: Supporting a Local CSA

It's Thursday and that means we just received a special delivery to our front porch. We recently joined a CSA called Farmer and the Dale and they deliver fresh produce to our door every other Thursday. Yes, you read that correctly. They *deliver* a box of fresh fruits and vegetables to us. No need to pile my kiddos in the car. No need to have the proper change. With just a few clicks of the mouse I can place my order, pay through Paypal, and my bank account or credit card are charged. They even deliver in these snazzy recyclable bags or crates.
Isn't this stuff gorgeous? The cost is $30 per box. We signed up to get it every other week so we're talking $15 a week right now. Totally affordable, especially for organic eats.

You might be wondering what a CSA is or how to find one in your area if you don't live in the Central Valley. A CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. These have become popular in the last 20 years as a way for people to buy local, save money and support smaller farmers.  A farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public, which in most cases means a regular box of produce. Another popular CSA in California's Central Valley is T.D. Willey Farms in Madera. We've tried them too. They have great products but we are choosing Farmer and the Dale because they allow us to choose what comes in our box. This allows us to cook and eat the items we desire. Here are some listings of CSAs across the country.

Ericlee's fave: apples. He eats an apple a day so we selected two orders of these. The only problem is my girlies are fighting over these sweet apples now. We'll be lucky if there are any left for Daddy.

Even though it's not tomato season we just decided to try some out. These are grown in a greenhouse. They don't compare to summer tomatoes but they're nice to add to sandwiches. If you order from Farmer and the Dale, please tell them we sent you so we can get our "referral bonus." But don't just trust us, try out a box yourself and make a decision. They have amazing customer service!


Go Green this St. Patty's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day, friends! At the Gilmore house, a new holiday means a new challenge to find healthy ways to celebrate and have fun. With the help of my little shamrocks, I just created a Minty Shamrock Shake (Move over, McD's) and tried out Irish Soda Bread with healthy twists. Yummy! You could always go digging in your refrigerator or browsing at your farmer's market for green fruits and veggies. Try sliced kiwi, limes, green peppers, asparagus, cucumbers - even apples!

We know it may sound weird but spring is the time for sweet peas so why not utilize their natural color? They have a light flavor but do not dominate a smoothie so your kids probably won't even notice. And the good news is, you don't have to use those yucky dyes to make your food green. If you're gun shy, try a tablespoon first just to get a little color. Just be a sneaky chef and leave a comment so we can hear if your little leprachauns liked it.

Minty Shamrock Shake

-3 cups raw whole milk (or your fave type of milk)
-1 tray of ice cubes
-1/2 teaspoon organic peppermint extract (depends on how minty you like it!)
-3 tablespoons honey (or organic sugar, if you prefer)
-1/4 cup frozen organic sweet peas

1. Whirl these ingredients in your blender until smooth.
2. Serve with a straw.

I found several recipes for Irish Soda Bread and decided to create my own. A special thanks to Maura Marmo and Peggy O'Brien-Bremer from my elementary school on the South Side of Chicago, who inspired me with their bread recipes. I've never used caraway seeds before but they are a fun addition that give this bread a distinct flavor. I would serve this up for breakfast, lunch or a dinner appetizer.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

-3 cups whole wheat flour
-2/3 cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
-1 tablespoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-2 beaten eggs
-1 1/2 cups buttermilk
-2 tablespoons organic butter, melted
-1 cup raisins
-1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan or mini loaves.
2. Sift flour into bowl. Add sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
2. Beat eggs. Add milk and butter. Blend into dry ingredients until batter is incorporated and moist.
3. Add raisins.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until golden brown on top.
6. Cool, slice and serve with butter.

Here are more St. Patty's Day healthy recipes from one of my fave online sources, Eating Well Magazine.


Luscious Lunches Cooking Club: Great lunch ideas served up for dinner

This month's Cooking Club was a smorgasbord of lunch recipes. In case you're just tuning in for the first time, we have a monthly Cooking Club at our house with 10 families. (No, they don't usually all come at the same time. However, we are starting to be outnumbered by the kids!) Each family brings pre-assigned ingredients. All the mamas cook while the daddies watch the kiddos. Everybody eats and then the daddies clean up while the mamas sit on the couch and chat. Good times.

Each month we choose a theme and this time around it was Luscious Lunches - inspired by a cookbook my mom gave me for Christmas. It's always fun to mix it up a little and serve something different for lunch. Who wants the same old boring sandwich day after day - especially when you are packing your hubby's lunch or your serving it up for multiple kiddos.

At Cooking Club, we always try out a new "adventurous recipe," which was this Asparagus Soup from Alfred Portale's 12 Seasons Cookbook. Our healthy option was the colorful Vegetarian Lavash Sandwiches created by our friend Cori. Everyone gobbled them up. We even made some peanut butter and jelly ones for the less adventurous types. We also look for recipes that use famer's market finds. Since spring has sprung in California that means strawberries and rhubarb are popping up in stores and on corners. We employed those babies in our fab dessert.

The Menu:

Dorina's Maple Pecan Chicken Wonton Cups
Cori's Lavash Sandwiches
Asparagus Soup
Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Avocado Dip
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
Chocolate-Banana-Oatmeal Power Cookies

Here are the recipes that aren't linked elsewhere:

Cori's Lavash Sandwiches

-red pepper
-basil leaves
-kalamata olives
-lemon pepper
-1 package of lavash bread (find it near the tortillas at Trader Joe's or other local grocery stores)

1. Thinly slice all the vegetables.
2. Spread the lavash with a thin layer of 1/3 mayonnaise and 2/3 hummus.
3. Arrange the veggies on top.
4. Sprinkle with salt, lemon pepper, paprika.
5. Roll up and cut into halves or thirds. Serve.

Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Avocado Dip

-15 sweet potatoes, peeled
-1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
-2 tablespoons of olive oil
-2 cups mayonnaise
-2 avocadoes
-1 jalapeno, finely chopped (approx. 1 tablespoon)
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon salt

1. Wash, peel and cut potatoes in large wedges. Toss with whole wheat pastry flour.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Spray two cookie sheets with olive oil. Place wedges onto the cookie sheets.
4. Bake in oven for approximately 45 minutes until cooked through. If they seem mushy, turn on broil and "crisp" for 5 minutes watching closely so they don't burn.
5. While the potato fries are cooking, assemble the sauce. Mash avocadoes in a bowl.
6. Mix in mayonnaise, lemon juice, jalapeno, paprika and salt. Blend well and put in small bowls to serve with fries.
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